EVEN as India’s Covid caseload crosses the 95-lakh mark and the death toll nears 1.4 lakh, there are finally some good tidings: the country’s wait for a vaccine might end in a few weeks. A day after AIIMS stated that at least one of the five vaccine candidates being locally tested should get emergency use authorisation from the drug regulator by the end of this month or early January, PM Modi said at the all-party meeting that Indian scientists were very sure of success in developing the all-important shot. With a time frame being officially specified, the government needs to finalise the vaccination programme at the earliest. Pricing, production, supply, distribution and coverage — all aspects have to be factored in. The regulatory authorities must develop a foolproof mechanism to ensure that the priority groups get inoculated first, besides keeping tabs on the unscrupulous elements that will try to cash in on this huge opportunity to make a quick buck.
Be it wholesalers, retailers or quacks, there are several vested interests who could jeopardise the vaccination drive by resorting to unfair practices such as overpricing, hoarding and the sale-purchase of unapproved drugs. There is also an urgent need to address the ills that plague our pharmaceutical system — misbranding, non-conformity to standards, inefficient or non-existent quality control. There should be no compromise on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, whose success (or failure) will have a bearing on the country’s economic recovery.
It’s laudable that the Centre has sought suggestions from states on who all will get the inoculation first. Centre-state coordination, which has been largely conspicuous by its absence during the pandemic, is a prerequisite to streamline the programme and make it reach all sections of society. It will be imperative to appoint nodal officers at state, district, and block levels to encompass all urban and rural areas. The nation has waged a grim battle against the pandemic so far, but the next couple of months are critical. Eventually, India’s Covid-19 campaign will be defined by whether the vaccine rollout is smooth or chaotic.